DUBAI 2002-2012/ The Gate Building of DIFC: a Symbol of Globalization in Dubai
Gate Building, designed by Gensler, is the very first building erected in DIFC in 2004. It’s designed to be the headquarters of the autonomous zone’s legislative, executive, and judicial Authority.The aim of the design is to set up a strong identity for the entrance of DIFC.¹ So the structure not only functions as an office building, but also a symbolic “gate” to DIFC (Figure 1). The 15-storey structure sits on a large podium. People can enter DIFC through the gate in the middle, while the two wings are the offices for the administrators. Since the completion of its construction in 2004, the Gate Building has been a significant symbol in many sense.
Initially, it’s situated in a critically important position in Dubai, and it has an influence on both the old urban fabric and the new one. The physical location is at the north end of DIFC, south to the edge of old city center. Right in between the old and the new, the architectural form of “gate” not only marked the entrance to DIFC, but also represented the beginning of new urban transformation in Dubai.² Sitting on an axis with the Emirates Towers and the World Trade Centre, the Gate Building has some interaction with the old urban fabric (Figure 2). Emirates Tower and World Trade Centre were one of the most significant landmarks in Dubai before 2004. A number of urban development take place along the axis between the two landmark buildings. Extended from the axis, the Gate Building help emphasize the importance of the axis and lengthen the axis to the boulevard of DIFC and even further to south. Therefore, the significance of the axis is greatly increased and a number of developers are attracted to build skyscrapers or landmark buildings along the axis after then.
What’s more, the architectural design reflects the influence of globalization in urban development and shows a balance between globalization and localization. First glance of the Gate Building reminds me Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Inspired by the Arc, the architect interpreted the neoclassical monumental architecture in a modern design³. The arch in the middle is replaced with rectangular “gate shape” and there is few ornament on the building. In addition, the materiality of the Gate Building also reflects its modern features. Large pieces granite tiles are used on the building surface to set up a simple appearance. Steel and glass are used in the curtain wall on the west and east elevation. Meanwhile, the Arc’s contemporary Middle Eastern cousin, also includes some design details responding to its unique local context.4 To deal with the harsh climate, it features a double skin and naturally vented curtain wall system, which is designed to provide maximum natural light but restrict solar gain. Besides, the cornice on the top of the building is emphasized by the steel and glass below, which is a key feature from vernacular architecture in Dubai (figure 4). So in the design of the Gate Building, we can see both the influence from western architecture and the response to local context.
- “The Gate Building”, 2004, http://www.gensler.com/projects/the-gate-building
- “Gensler to Draw Up DIFC Master Plan”, 2004, http://gulfconstructiononline.com/news/5419_Gensler-to-draw-up-DIFC-master-plan.html
- “Architectural Triumph of DIFC’s Open-Gate Policy”, 2012, http://www.thenational.ae/business/industry-insights/finance/architectural-triumph-of-difcs-open-gate-policy
- “Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai,United Arab Emirates”, 2010, http://www.designbuild-network.com/projects/difc/